NBA Developmental League Showcase, Day One

NBA Developmental League Showcase, Day One
Jan 16, 2007, 01:20 pm
DraftExpress President Jonathan Givony and D-League Director of Scouting Mike Schmidt are present in frosty Sioux Falls, South Dakota to track the progress of the NBA send-downs and potential call-ups. Jeremy Richardson and Stephen Graham were the top two non-NBA affiliated players, while Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Amir Johnson and Saer Sene did good work as send-downs.

Any International teams seeking more comprehensive information on any of the players at the showcase should feel free to get in touch using the email addresses listed below.

Game One: Idaho Stampede 100- Arkansas RimRockers 87

CJ Miles, 6-6, Shooting Guard, Utah Jazz (Idaho Stampede), 1987
10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 3-7 FG, 2-6 3P, 2-2 FT, 27 minutes

Jonathan Givony

CJ Miles kicked off his second D-League showing after recently having been sent down with a fairly lackluster performance. He settled for 3-pointers for the most part (6 of his 7 field goal attempts) and despite displaying a nice stroke, did not have a ton of success here. Only a year and a half removed from high school, at age 19, he’s still very weak physically, and does not seem to be overly explosive with his first step. He’s a smart player who knows how to pass and looked pretty good running the pick and roll, but he’s going to have to do a better job with his ball-handling and slashing to eventually find success in the NBA. Just recently having joined the team, Miles probably needs more time to mesh with his teammates before further conclusions can be drawn.

Randy Livingston, 6-4, Point Guard, Idaho Stampede, 1975
11 points, 12 assists, 4 turnovers, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 4/14 FG, 0-3 3P, 3-3 FT

Jonathan Givony

The elder statesman of the Developmental League at age 31 and with 10 years of NBA experience underneath his belt, Livingston is a fantastic player for the D-League to have. He’s a great teammate, incredibly unselfish, a true leader, and absolutely terrific around his younger teammates. They say he’s got a future as a coach in the NBA, and after watching him for just a few minutes here, its not hard to tell why. Livingston is as close to a true floor general as we saw in the first day here, being capable of making every pass you want a point guard to make and looking outstanding running a half-court offense. As one NBA executive told us today, despite his excellent playmaking skills, if any team calls him up it would be for what he brings a team off the court rather than on it. Livingston is a pretty unimpressive athlete, possessing below average quickness, a mediocre first step, and insufficient lateral quickness to stay in front of his matchup. He is also a poor outside shooter due to his ugly shooting mechanics, although he does have a nice mid-range game. Livingston finished the game with 12 assists and probably could have had a lot more had his teammates finished some of his passes and he wasn’t moved off the ball in favor of getting some of his teammates run at the point guard position.

Ricky Sanchez, 6-11, SF/PF, Idaho Stampede, 1987
13 points, 3 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 turnovers, 3-6 FG, 1-4 3P, 4 fouls, 13 minutes

Jonathan Givony

A 2nd round draft pick of the Denver Nuggets straight out of high school in 2005, Sanchez is one of the youngest players at this showcase. Having seen him play at two consecutive Vegas Summer Leagues, we have a bit of foundation from which to draw conclusions from on the progress he’s making so far. Compared with past showings, Sanchez seems to be making more of an emphasis on putting the ball on the floor and making his way to the basket. He also did a nice job here on pick and roll plays as the spot-up shooter. Mostly a soft 3-point chucker in the past, this new found aggressiveness is very nice to see. Sanchez still has that same beautiful stroke from behind the arc, complete with a quick release and a pretty follow-through, so mixing up his game a bit more only makes his chances of making the NBA some day that much more likely. Still not much of a rebounder, nor a freakish athlete, and certainly stuck between positions as far as his defense is concerned, Sanchez still has plenty of work ahead of him. We need to keep in mind that he’s only 19 years old, though, so he would basically only be a sophomore in college had he decided to take that route instead.

Jeff Graves, 6-9, PF/C, Idaho Stampede, 1981
19 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assists, 6 turnovers, 6-13 FG, 7-11 FT

Jonathan Givony

The leading scorer for Idaho in victory, Jeff Graves did a good job closing out the win mostly late in the game. He used his brute strength to bully his way around the basket against Arkansas’ weak front-court, getting to the free throw line and finishing with aggression around the basket. From what the D-League officials tell us, he’s been playing extremely well as of late, so this is nothing new. He hit a nice 14-foot mid-range jumper and also did a nice job on the glass, although he’s not terribly explosive. He’s a big guy and looks even more trim than we remember him at Kansas. We want to see more of him in his second game here.

Clay Tucker, 6-4, SG, Arkansas Rimrockers,
21 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 8/21 fg

Mike Schmidt

Tucker has been one of the best scorers in the D-League this season, and he proved why today. He is very smooth with the ball, and creates his shot with ease. He also can shoot the NBA three pointer, and has good elevation and a quick release. Tucker had the chance to score off of many isolation plays today, and scored a majority of his points on mid-range jumpers off the dribble. He was also successful taking the ball to the hoop, and even scored on a post up. Tucker is naturally a shooting guard, but was called upon by his team to play a lot of point guard. He is a good passer, but his game doesn’t translate to the point guard slot. There are a couple limiting factors that may keep Tucker from the NBA. He only stands 6’4” off the ground, and lacks the athleticism needed to make up for it. He has a good body, but it may not be enough to get him to the NBA. Even so, there is a lot of potential earnings for a player like Clay Tucker overseas.

Saer Sene, 7-0, Center, Seattle Supersonics/Idaho Stampede
10 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4/6 FG, 2/2 FT

Mike Schmidt

Sene was first discovered at the 2006 Nike Hoop Summit last April, where DraftExpress watched him block 9 shots. Today Sene displayed a lot of the tools that allowed him to be the 10th pick in the draft in June. His dominance on the defensive end was obvious from the moment he stepped on the court, and the opposing team didn’t challenge him too often after he sent a few shots back in the other direction.

Leading up to the draft, Sene had a nice frame, but he has now taken it a step further and added a good amount of muscle. This is especially apparent with his rebounding, and the way players bounced off of him when fighting on the glass. Unlike a lot of centers, Sene goes after every ball. This led to 7 offensive rebounds throughout the game. The biggest surprise came today on the offensive end. Sene displayed a very nice hook shot out of the low post. He used this move 4 times, and converted on 3 of the attempts. One time he backed down a defender with three dribbles before spinning back the other direction and dropping in a hook shot, a very encouraging development to take in.

Despite his performance today, Sene will still need some time to adjust to playing against bigger centers. The centers he faced today against Arkansas are a lot different than the ones he will face in the NBA. Still, Sene has all of the physical attributes you could ask for in a center, and runs the court like a guard. If he can continue his current rate of development, Sene has a very bright NBA future. Guys with his physical attributes and energy don't come along too often.

Game Two: Los Angeles D-Fenders 111- Fort Worth Flyers 103

Jeremy Richardson, 6-7, Small Forward, Fort Worth Flyers
22 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 9/18 fg, 4/4 ft

Mike Schmidt

A division 2 player who received very little attention before the draft last season, Richardson has established himself as one of the better small forwards in the D-League. He stands at a legit 6’7, and is very good athletically. Richardson displayed good range on his jumper, and the ability to get to the basket. He also ran the floor well in transition, and made a number of finishes in traffic throughout the game. He scored many of his points by moving off the ball and coming off screens to free himself up. In college, ball handling was a major weakness for him, but he worked with well respected trainer and coach John Lucas over the summer to improve it. This was evident when he pulled up in traffic for a runner rather than forcing the ball inside. Richardson is intriguing because he has a lot more untapped potential than most prospects in the D-League. Right now he can shoot off the dribble, take the ball to the hoop, and he is developing in the mid-range. Richardson’s defense will need to improve, but has the quickness to be a good defender. He will need to continue to refine his game before he is ready to go at the NBA level, but the foundation is in place. His name popped up in more conversations amongst NBA types than practically anyone else here.

Pops Mensah-Bonsu, 6-8, Power Forward, Fort Worth Flyers, 1983
22 points, 16 rebounds, 3 blocks, 0 assists, 5 turnovers, 39 minutes, 10-16 FG, 2-5 FT

Jonathan Givony

Possibly the most exhilarating performance as far as the crowd was concerned in day one was Pops Mensah-Bonsu’s 22 point, 16 rebound 3 block outing. Using a lethal combination of freakish athleticism, excellent strength and sheer tenacity, Mensah-Bonsu bullied his way around the hoop all day long and made his presence felt with infectious energy and a series of primal screams to mark his territory. He was extremely active on the offensive glass, ran the floor like a man possessed, and was constantly sniffing out opportunities to rotate and make a big block.

Beyond the sheer entertainment value of Pops’ performance, we’re not so sure if his NBA future is quite as bright as this game might make you think. Beyond his terrific athleticism, Mensah-Bonsu still has a long ways to go in terms of rounding out the rest of his game. His footwork in the post is average, he doesn't score outside of 5 feet around the basket, relies on his leaping ability too much going after rebounds, and his man to man and team defense could still use plenty of work, as could his general feel for the game. Mensah-Bonsu is gaining valuable experience here in the D-League, though, and still has plenty of upside to continue to develop. If his bone-on-bone knee holds up for the long term, and he develops the other parts of his fairly limited game, his energy should allow him to carve out some kind of a niche for himself in the league.

Game Three: Sioux Falls Skyforce 101- Austin Torros 81

Vince Grier, 6-5, Shooting Guard, Sioux Falls Skyforce
12 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 4/11 fg, 4/4 ft

Mike Schmidt

Grier displayed the same athleticism and slashing ability he was known for in college. He took the ball to the hoop both in transition and the halfcourt. The biggest problem for him at this point is the fact that he seems to need the ball in his hands to do anything on the court. At the University of Minnesota, Grier was the go-to guy, and expected to create his own shot, but at a higher level of basketball he needs to learn to become a role player. Everytime Grier touched the ball he tried to go right to the basket, and would only pass when he had no place else to go. Grier’s jumper (or free throw stroke) is still the same horror it was in college, and it will need to become passable for him to get a chance at the NBA level. Learning to play in a team concept is a priority for him no matter which direction he heads. His athleticism allows him to be a terror on the defensive end when he chooses to, but we didn't see enough from this part of his game in day one.

Stephen Graham, 6-6, SG/SF, Sioux Falls Skyforce, 1982

Jonathan Givony

The day one award for “player most ready for an NBA callup” has to go to Stephen Graham. Possessing the most polish of any non-NBA player we’ve seen here (and possibly of any of the NBA players too), Graham is as versatile a guy you’ll find and a very fun guy to watch over the course of a game.
Starting with his physical attributes, Graham has the type of body and frame that most NBA players would kill for. He’s also a fantastic athlete thanks to his combination of fluidity and strength, and he used this athleticism on multiple occasions to finish impressively in transition or play excellent defense, on James White for example. He showed a nice arsenal of smooth pull-up jumpers and crafty spin-moves, which then opened up the possibility of showing off his improved perimeter jumper. He missed both of his NBA range 3-pointers, but his at least two jumpers from college range and a couple more from mid-range as well. What was good to see was just how under control Graham played today, never forcing the issue and making some very nice passes as well, a far cry from much of the action we’ve seen so far. He may have even been a little too passive at times, and it would benefit him to show a little more fire despite his under-control style of play. All in all, this was a nice performance from Graham today. We'll see how his jumper looks in his second game here, something that was considered a weakness of his up until today.

Amir Johnson, 6-9, Power Forward, Detroit Pistons (Sioux Falls), 1987
15 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 7-13 FG, 1-1 3P, 21 minutes

Jonathan Givony

Although he might not have been the most polished or productive player we saw in day one, you’re going to have a hard time finding a player with more upside than Amir Johnson. Nowhere near a finished product at age 19, just two years out of high school, Johnson shows some tremendous tools for a modern day NBA power forward. A freak athlete with an excellent frame, a nice wingspan, terrific quickness and explosiveness, good hands, and all kinds of emerging skills, Johnson hit an NBA 3-pointer, put the ball on the floor and finished with a beautiful floater, ran the court like a man possessed, hit the offensive glass, and even went to work with his back to the basket on occasion. Nothing he does looks particularly refined, but he mixes in a little bit of everything with some real energy to leave a very intriguing picture as he continues to develop down the road.

The Pistons made the right move in sending him down to the D-League to add some polish and gain some confidence, and it looks like they could very well have something on their hands down the road.

James White, 6-7, Small Forward, San Antonio Spurs (Austin Toros), 1982
12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 turnovers, 2 blocks, 3-11 FG, 1-4 3P, 38 minutes

Jonathan Givony

Easily the most disappointing performance of any of the NBA send-down players, it’s hard to excuse James White’s play by his age (24) or the amount of time he’s spent with his team so far, this being his ninth game in the D-League so far. What was most concerning about the way White played had to be his complete lack of focus on the court and terrible body language. His ball-handling looked downright atrocious when he tried to put the ball on the floor, and every time he traveled or fumbled the ball into an opposing player’s hands, it seemed to be someone else’s fault. He started off the game very aggressively, air-balling his first pull-up jumper, knocking down a spot-up college 3, and then missing on a turn-around jumper after posting-up. He kept trying to make plays that were completely out of his element; a swooping hook shot here, a long NBA 3-pointer there, rarely using his athleticism and generally avoiding contact whenever possible. The good things he did show were his passing and athleticism, which allowed him to make some nice defensive plays. It’s only one game so there is only so much you can take away from this performance, but from what we saw there is little to be encouraged regarding his underachieving ways in college somehow changing in the pros.

Troy Bell, 6-1, Point Guard, Austin Toros, 1982
21 points, 7 assists, 6 turnovers, 5-11 FG, 1-2 3P, 10-10 FT

Mike Schmidt

Today Bell displayed the scoring ability he was lacking early in the season, but he has a long way to go in terms of running an offense. He scored many of his points on the fast break, where he would put his head down and do anything possible to get to the basket. He was very creative with the way he finished inside many times, and was also able to collect a lot of free throw attempts. There were times on the fast break where Bell had open teammates, but didn’t look up because he was so focused on scoring. He did rack up a good amount of assists, but this was only a result of being triple teamed on drives inside. In the half court offense, Bell would dribble around for at least 12 seconds of the shot clock before getting things set and ready to go. This led to a lot of broken plays and turnovers when the team didn’t have enough time to execute. Bell was cut earlier in the season by Albuquerque, who took him in the first round of the D-League draft. He has currently improved his play, but will need to be a much better distributor before he can make the jump back to the NBA. If this game was an audition for a spot as a combo guard on a team overseas, Bell would have done great.

Dakota Wizards 95 - Albuquerque Thunderbirds 94

Please excuse us for not having much focus left for the fourth and last game of the day after traveling into Sioux Falls extremely early in the morning from Sioux Falls.

Renaldo Major reportedly had the best showing of anyone at this game and there was a good buzz about him coming from scouts. He has a versatile all-around game even if he doesn’t stick out in any one area. For the other team, Duane Erwin caught our eye with his energy and nice understanding of the game.

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